Heartbreaks to hits: Mitski “Be the Cowboy” album review

Rating: 8.5

With her fifth studio album, “Be the Cowboy”, having been released on August 17, Mitski Miyawaki is back with a vengeance. Known mononymously as singer-songwriter, Mitski, Miyawaki revists common themes of loneliness, oblivion, and unrequited love that makes “Be the Cowboy” her most sorrowful yet.

Since her debut album, “Lush”, released in 2012, Miyawaki has toured with artists as big as the Pixies and Lorde, as well as having embarked on several headlining tours of her own. Miyawaki has gained immense popularity within the last four years due to her most critically-acclaimed albums, “Bury Me at Makeout Creek”, released in 2014, and “Puberty 2”, which was released in 2016. With such a strong discography under her belt, fans and critics alike feared that Miyawaki would lack the resources necessary to produce yet another successful album; fortunately for Miyawaki, there is always another heartbreak to capital from.

As a Japanese-American woman, Miyawaki often struggles with feelings of dis-belonging in her country, culture, and industry. Her sullen lyrics and heavy instrumentals are a beautiful contradiction, evoking mental images of a distraught Miyawaki shouting cynically into the void and “Geyser”, the album’s first song and single, acts as the perfect example. As the song gradually ascends to the intense chorus, Miyawaki’s voice finds the strength to confront her muse, convincing them of her worthiness. While the song begins with confessions of love and Miyawaki rejecting other men of romantic interest in hopes of her muse changing his mind about her, she eventually achieves the self-assurance to warn him, “But I will be the one you need, the way I can’t be without you.”

Songs such as “Old Friend” and “Lonesome Love” discuss unresolved feelings regarding a previous relationship, in which Miyawaki lacks the ability to move on and restore her independence. “Old Friend” is about meeting up with a former partner at what used to be their favorite diner and remains a sacred secret between them, even after they both have entered new relationships, in which Miyawaki refers to with, “Someone who loves me now, better than you and that pretty friend is finally yours…”

Despite having moved on, the bond that Miyawaki and her unnamed acquaintance share is innocently heartwarming, unlike the relationship featured on “Lonesome Love”. The song is introduced with Miyawaki intentionally exerting more effort into her appearance when meeting up with an ex in order to “win and this can finally end”, though once together, all it takes is for him is to greet her and make her “lose”. Miyawaki’s sense of defeat is most evident as she is left wondering after their disappointing night spent together, “Why am I lonely for lonesome love?”

Miyawaki also explores her fear of oblivion throughout “Be the Cowboy” on songs such as “Me and My Husband” and “Remember My Name”, as she comes to terms with her mortality. “Me and My Husband” features one of the most memorable lyrics on the album, as Miyawaki professes, “I steal a few breaths from the world for a minute and then I’ll be nothing forever and all of my memories and all of the things I have seen will be gone.” Despite her fame and mass following, Miyawaki reveals on “Remember My Name” that she regrets not having yet made a more personal impact on someone who will remember her once she’s gone, as she declares, “I need somebody to remember my name after all I can do for them is done.”

Due to her vulnerability, complexity, and captivating storytelling, “Be the Cowboy” is subjectively Miyawaki’s best album yet, which The Lutrinae rates an 8.5 out of 10. You can hear “Be the Cowboy” live at The Warfield Theatre in San Francisco on November 3 with supporting act, the Overcoats.

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